2022 Year in Review

CJP Staff
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Trees

Background

Every month, more court cases related to climate change are filed across the country and around the world. As the number of lawsuits related to climate change grows, CJP’s mission to equip judges with knowledge of the science and law of climate change has never been more important. In looking to 2023, we reflect with pride on progress made in 2022.

In 2022, the Climate Judiciary Project (CJP) scaled up, reached out, and engaged judges in greater depth than in all previous years since 2019. It approached completion of a comprehensive judicial education course on climate science and climate law. It delivered seminars, webinars, and meeting sessions to hundreds of state and federal judges around the nation. It also wove a network of Judicial Leaders in Climate Science (JLCS), delivering a model program to train and support trainers of judicial peers at the state court level.

With each new program, we have learned just how much potential there is to educate judges on the science and impacts of climate change. Here’s a closer look at the Climate Judiciary Project’s 2022 milestones.

A Climate Science Curriculum for Judges

CJP approached completion of the “Climate Science and Law for Judges” curriculum, a first-of-its-kind resource designed to provide the judiciary with reliable, up-to-date information about legal and scientific issues in climate litigation. The Curriculum consists of 13 modules written by leading scientific and legal experts. Content is drawn from authoritative scientific reports and milestone climate change cases and all modules are peer-reviewed, usually by three readers. Modules explore topics as diverse as How Climate Science Works and Judicial Remedies for Climate Cases. Eleven of the 13 modules are now available on the CJP website and to judges in our programs. Complementary materials, including explanatory videos and slide decks, will be available later in 2023.

While the content is designed for judges as the first audience, we think the material will be useful for other audiences as well.

Educating Judges

In 2022, CJP trained over 400 judges at numerous events. Among these were a day-long seminar on climate science and the energy transition co-hosted with The George Washington University; climate-science seminars at judicial retreats for the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; and a webinar on hurricanes, their societal impacts, and associated legal considerations, co-hosted with The National Judicial College.

Invitations to judicial conferences and judicial institutes have grown to fill much of our time as our unique and powerful content is more widely recognized in the judicial education community. As we develop our corps of scientists committed to training judges, we are expanding our effort to connect them to these speaking opportunities. Such a distributed model will allow us to reach many more judges, with a more local focus, increasing impact far beyond what was originally imagined.

Building Networks of Judicial and Climate Science Leaders

With each engagement, we find more scientists and judges eager to contribute to the project. The Judicial Leaders in Climate Science program, our most recent, and in many ways most exciting, stands out as a leading example. Conceived to meaningfully engage state judges, and in partnership with the National Judicial College, the program is a unique effort integrating leadership skills and climate science. Nominated by their Chief Justices from a representative range of states and Puerto Rico, our inaugural class of 23 judges met for the first-time in March 2022 to develop leadership skills needed to engage fellow judges in educational programs on climate science and the law in their home states. Then, in September, we reconvened the group at the renowned Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where we ran a second course focusing on climate science facts and methods. Several of the nation’s leading climate scientists and legal scholars acted as faculty, including Peter de Menocal, Daniel Schrag, Michael Greenstone, Kevin Reed, Christopher Schwalm, and Douglas Kysar.

What an extraordinary experience! The judges came away steeped in facts about the science of climate change, deeply impressed with their consequences, and committed to working together and reaching out to fellow judges to convey what they had learned. Drawn from a diversity of backgrounds and jurisdictions—from Vermont to Texas to California—each participant has committed to taking concrete actions to advance the education of their peers. Judges with no experience educating colleagues or previous knowledge of climate issues proposed an impressive array of ways they would contribute to preparing their courts. Now, the conversation continues online as across the country our JLCS participants are designing and convening their own courses for educating their peers. Said one of the judges in review, “I’m really energized by the program. I think it’s going to be essential,” and another, “Before, climate change was very just personal and outside my professional life. And this has made it a priority in my professional life.”

Building the CJP Team

This past year, CJP hired full-time Science Fellow Dr. John Doherty, who has been integral to engaging scientists in the project. We also brought on Staff Attorney Jarryd Page and obtained additional support from a Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law Institute. This expansion of our team, along with ongoing partnerships with leading judicial education institutions including the National Judicial College, allowed us to further develop our existing work and launch new initiatives in 2023.

Expansion and Continuous Improvement

To find out how we are making a difference—and how we can advance change more proactively—we have engaged the evaluation firm, Mathematica. Their staff provide ongoing assessments through surveys and interviews of progress toward ambitious goals. Armed with this data, we integrate evaluation into the program in a feedback loop of continuous improvement.

We have been immensely encouraged by the reception of our work in the judicial and scientific communities. In developing relationships with both, we are bridging a critical gap in the preparation of judges to hear climate-related cases. Such support breathes life into the highest goal of the project—to help the judiciary as they build a body of law that appropriately addresses climate change.

As we reflect on our accomplishments of 2022, we are driven to sustain and expand the Climate Judiciary Project. This coming year will see publication of the final two written modules of the Climate Science and Law for Judges Curriculum, launching of our resource website, and development of videos, materials, and other key resources on climate science and legal issues.

We also are endeavoring to develop a larger network of scientists, legal scholars, law clerks, and judges. On this front, we have connected with several judges who are excited to support our efforts and have invited us to speak at their judicial conferences. In addition, our team has built strong relationships with the Judicial Leaders in Climate Science and is supporting these judges as they develop climate science education for their peers. Follow-on work with the JLCS judges has high potential to expand awareness and support for our efforts in the broader judicial community.

Stay connected with the Climate Judiciary Project. This information allows us to better support education about climate science and the law and share new resources as they become available.

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